CLIMATE campaigners backing calls to extend pedestrianisation in the centre of Stratford have been warned it could bring “unintended consequences”.
The idea was recently proposed by Liberal-Democrat district councillor Dominic Skinner and is being backed by campaign group Stratford Climate Action (SCA).
SCA chairman Stephen Norrie said: “If Covid-19 means the options are extending pedestrianisation or remaining closed, that’s surely a no-brainer – but we should also look at this as an opportunity to permanently reduce CO2 emissions from traffic, which accounts for 56 per cent of emissions within Stratford district.
“The climate emergency is more dangerous than Covid-19, and we’ll be forced to confront it eventually, one way or another. It will be cheaper and more efficient to confront both emergencies together.
“The need to reduce traffic is urgent, not just to create space for social distancing in the fight against Covid-19, but also in response to the greater threat of climate breakdown.
“It is imperative that we hold the two issues together in our thinking. There can be no point in wasting a decade struggling to restore an old ‘normality’, when the breakdown of our planet’s natural systems means we need to transition to a new, sustainable way of life within the same ten years.”
“We call on the district council to make the pedestrianisation of the town centre a top priority.”
But Stratford District Council leader Tony Jefferson warned pedestrianisation would need careful thought.
He told the Observer: “Pedestrianisation is something to be handled very carefully, as a knee jerk reaction may lead to unintended consequences.
“There are, I believe, many illustrations where pedestrianisation has done significant damage to town centres and businesses. Any proposals to pedestrianise the town centre would need comprehensive modelling and careful consideration.
“Part of the issue with pedestrianisation is that once done, it is very rare that you can go back, even if it is a failure.
“Of course, people who are not responsible for implementing things do not have to worry about that. One of the great areas of uncertainty at this point in time is exactly how people are going to respond to the ending of lockdown. It is what makes developing initiatives that will be effective quite challenging.”
* Stratford District Council has made a first step in tackling climate emergency locally by giving guidance to developers within the authority’s existing core strategy
Council chiefs have adopted a new part to its Development Requirements Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) focusing on climate change adaptation and mitigation.
It will be used by the council to help reach decisions on whether to approve or refuse planning applications.
SDC deputy leader Coun Daren Pemberton said: “While Covid-19 has been our main focus since March, climate change has not gone away and neither has our desire to address the emergency at a local level. The planning system plays a pivotal role in our transition to nett zero emissions and adapting our built environment to the effects of climate change.
“We recognise that a step change will only be achieved through our forthcoming core strategy review which will have the climate at its heart.”